Bears staff a starting point in free agency
After being hired as the 14th head coach of the Chicago Bears, Marc Trestman immediately began the processing of building his coaching staff from scratch. He kept two members of the old regime in Chicago – defensive line coach Mike Phair and secondary coach Jon Hoke – but the rest of the staff is a set of new faces culminated from both the NFL and CFL. Free agency begins on March 12, roughly a month away. Nearly every member of Chicago's staff coached elsewhere last year, working with a different set of players. With free agency around the corner, it's likely the new staff is pinpointing players they recently coached, as they know their talent levels better than anyone else. On defense, new coordinator Mel Tucker is surely considering some of his former Jaguars, while offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer has his eye on a few Saints players. With that in mind, let's break down the free agents that recently played under Chicago's new coordinators. Mel Tucker Tucker was defensive coordinator for the Jaguars the past four seasons. Six of his former players in Jacksonville are set to hit free agency. OLB Daryl Smith Smith is one of the most consistent linebackers in the NFL. He missed 14 games last season but was the team's leading tackler the previous seven campaigns. The Jags are unlikely to re-sign him. He turns 31 in March, so age is a concern, but as a short-term option who could start immediately, there are few better in the open market. CB Rashean Mathis, CB Derek Cox, CB William Middleton, CB Antwaun Molden Mathis will be 33 in August and his best years are behind him. He's missed 11 games the past two years and has just three total interceptions since 2010. And last season, as a member of the 30th ranked defense, he was benched. Cox is a talented young player with good size (6-1). He's yet to reach his potential, and deals constantly with injuries, but at the right price, he'd be worth taking a chance on as the nickelback in Chicago. Molden and Middleton are special teams players, although Middleton has upside as a corner. NT Terrance KnightonBrett Davis/USA TODAY Sports DT Terrance Knighton Knighton is a big nose tackle (6-3, 330) who can eat up space. He doesn't offer much as a pass rusher but he could play a crucial role against the run in Chicago's defense. The Bears could be in the market for Stephen Paea's backup, and Knighton is a great candidate. Aaron Kromer Kromer coached in New Orleans the past five years, first as the running backs coach in 2008 and the last four seasons as the offensive line coach. The Saints have five offensive free agents, including two linemen. LT Jermon Bushrod and RT William Robinson Bushrod started under Kromer the past four seasons. He's very dependable, starting every game the last three years and is a quality run blocker. But in pass protection, he's one of the worst in the game. Pro Football Focus graded him 56th in league in pass blocking amongst offensive tackles last year – 14 spots behind J'Marcus Webb. Still, Bushrod has always played under Kromer, so there's a connection there. I don't condone the selection but it's very possible he ends up in Chicago. Robinson has played for four teams the last four years, with one career start under his belt. He's not worth considering. WR Devery Henderson and WR Courtney Roby Henderson has been a decent receiver for the Saints for nine seasons. He's more of a No. 3 receiver with speed to beat you deep. Yet at 30 years old, his game has deteriorated and he's no longer the player he once was. At the right price, he would provide good depth in Chicago. Roby is an eight-year veteran who is a quality special teams player. QB Chase Daniel Daniel has thrown nine passes in four years as Drew Brees' backup. He could be a cheaper alternative to Jason Campbell as Chicago's No. 2 behind Jay Cutler. Yet Daniel's lack of experience would be worrisome if he were called into full-time duty. One more option to consider RB Felix Jones, Cowboys The Bears hired Skip Peete as the club's running backs coach. He served in that same role with the Cowboys from 2007-2012, where he coached Jones. Jones has a history of injury problems but he's a quality change-of- pace back when healthy. He's only 25 and has experience returning kicks. Chicago could be in the market for a No. 3 ball carrier and, with Devin Hester's future uncertain, a return man this offseason. Considering his ties to Peete, expect the Bears to give Jones a look. Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.